Discover more from The Fifth Column (A Podcast)
Workin’ for the Weekend #30: Our Friends Do Good Work
Also: Len Downie is not our friend.
OMG, I had a perfectly serviceable intro to this weekend’s links, and then while Google-searching my co-conspirators I discovered this amazing(ly awful) document: “The Top 29 Hottest Libertarian Men—Summer 2014 Edition.” Let the comments-snark (available only to paying subscribers, of course) begin!
* Some quick follow-up notes to Episode #393, then we’ll get to some quality work from our pals & former guests. Here’s that Old NYC photo site Moynihan was talking about (thanks, GeekDogWes!), and here’s anti-school-choice activist Diane Ravitch’s laborious explanation for why she sent her kids to private school (h/t Jake).
* Re: gentrification, here’s Moynihan on “A Whole Foods Fight in Boston,” the “Safest Big City in the US,” and his referenced 2017 piece, “Weren’t Those the Bad Old Days? The Poison of New York City Nostalgia.” My contributions to the genre include the wonderfully headlined (and not by me!) “Hipsters Send Times Into Tizzies,” plus “Sore-Winner WaPo Columnist Goes Postal on White Gentrifiers,” and “Brooklyn Idiots Claim Gentrification Is a 'Human Rights Violation.'” Also, don’t sleep on #112, #362 and M.O. #122!
* Re: Len Downie (sorry, Leonard Downie Jr.), here’s a book review essay I wrote 20 years ago (*gulp*) titled “Woe Is Media: It’s time to save journalism from its saviors.” In 2004, Downie (and future fellow media-crit cheerleader for torching objectivity Margaret Sullivan!) were still so far on the other side of allowing reporters to be human beings that they contemplated self-censorship for private, non-work emails. In 2009, I criticized Downie’s galaxy-brained idea to save journalism via government subsidies administered by the Federal Communications Commission. And in a chapter I contributed to a 2011 book collection about the media, I summarized Len and the pre-woke cadre of glum journalo-thumbsuckers thusly:
Every year, like a pack of crows announcing the arrival of winter, at least one and usually several anxious new tomes from big-media lifers pronounce journalism to be on death's door. In 1999, writing in the introduction to Bill Kovach's and Tom Rosenstiel's Warp Speed, legendary author David Halberstam declared that, "The past year has been, I think, the worst year for American journalism since I entered the profession forty-four years ago." Since then, obviously, things have only gotten worse.
Journalism "may face its greatest threat yet" and could well "disappear," Kovach and Rosenstiel warned in 2001's The Elements of Journalism. "The news about the news," according the subtitle of a 2002 book of the same name by life-long Washington Post editors Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser, is that "American journalism" is "in peril." In 2009, Downie one-upped himself, co-writing in a white paper titled "The Reconstruction of American Journalism" that not only is accountability journalism "at risk," but that "American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting."
How did we move so quickly from bemoaning the size and profitability of media companies (Downie 2002) to advocating government subsidies for those same weakened giants (Downie 2009)? Only by mistaking the fate of journalism's biggest manufacturers with the fate of the industry as a whole—by conflating A&P with the retail business—and then further muddying the waters by confusing the fortunes of big media companies with the health of democracy itself.
* OK, onto our pals doin’ work. Relevant to our discussion in M.O. #150, Thomas Chatterton Williams (#121, #158, #188, #197, #373) had a solid Atlantic response to his critics Feb. 1 headlined “Not Every Atrocity Is About White Supremacy: Why I am skeptical of the reflex to attribute violence to structural racism.”
* Red Scare gals Dasha Nekrasova & Anna Khachiyan (#219) pulled off quite the get Feb. 1 with the brilliant and ever-controversial French author Michel Houellebecq, who’s back in the news with his Harper’s essay against assisted suicide.
* And kinda out of nowhere, Jaime Kirchick (#55, #347), has an Air Mail piece just today titled “Armie Hammer Breaks His Silence: Two years after some of the most shocking allegations of the #MeToo era lit up the Internet and destroyed his career, the actor has finally decided to tell his side of the story.”
Before our closing song, I had mentioned a few weeks back that the late Lisa Marie Presley ran in our aspiring-L.A.-rocker circles around the turn of the millennium; so naturally I made a Spotify playlist of what we were all doing and listening to back then (apparently a lot of hooky pop punk?), plus some tacked on songs from other people who died in January. Cheery! OK, final word from Mr. Eddie Murphy, in a reggae song Moynihan introduced us to just after we stopped recording the other night: